The unfortunate irony of the holiday season is that all of our joyous celebrations seem linked with unhealthiness. There’s celebratory food and drink, of course. And there’s also the stress of coordinating social events, shopping for presents, and spending more time than usual with relatives. In 2020 we add a pandemic to the mix, and the holidays can take a real toll on our bodies. But there are ways to mitigate this.
Step 1. Practice Patience and Self-Forgiveness
Women often feel obligated to handle many aspects of holiday events: coordinating, cooking, playing host, and cleaning. But when we put pressure on ourselves to make the holidays perfect, we’re already setting ourselves up for stress before the holidays have even started. Stress triggers all sorts of health problems—including issues with sleep, digestion, skin health—that in turn trigger more stress. The way to stay out of the cycle is to stop it before it starts.
Be aware of negative thoughts, and reach out to loved ones for support. Speaking to your doctor or counselor—people who have no stakes in your family’s history—is also a great way to establish and prioritize a healthy mindset.
Step 2. Keep It Simple
Make plans first, but keep them simple. Of all years, 2020 is not the time to try to create a big to-do. If you find yourself filling time with more and more complicated recipes or decoration designs, refer yourself back to this list. There are ways to occupy yourself that don’t involve making your life more complicated.
Step 3. Take Breaks, Even Brief Ones
Another way to stop the stress cycle is to interrupt it with even short moments of meditation or mindfulness. It’s great if you already have a mindfulness routine or app, but meditation is even simpler than we’ve been led to believe: Take a moment every now and then to look outside, let your eyes focus on something that’s more than 20 feet away, and picture yourself in the most comfortable setting you can imagine. Even just 60 seconds of this causes significant changes in your physiology, including lowered blood pressure and heart rate.
Step 4. Walk It Out
Speaking of meditation, walking combines a number of simple meditative and physical benefits: The exercise releases endorphins, while the completion of the task releases dopamine; a simple stroll also encourages digestion; your eye muscles get to relax as you focus on different distances; and science has even shown that humans are soothed by rhythmic sensations, so putting one foot in front of the other really does make you feel better.
Step 5. Stock Up on Snacks (The Good Kinds)
Even women who are well practiced in mindful eating can have a hard time during the holidays. There’s so much going on, and so much food around, that it’s only natural to nibble away without thinking about it. My Top Five Healthy Snacks for Traveling work here, too. You’re going to be surrounded by food anyway; make as much of it as healthy as possible.
And if all else fails, go back to Step 1. It’s natural to feel stress during the holidays. Let’s be kind to ourselves.